In response to COVID-19, new policies have moved more employees into working from home for the first time. For some teams, it is also the longest period of time being separated from their core group. However, working from home in general is not new – a quarter of the US workforce was already doing this – and it can be done effectively.
Leading remotely and working from home effectively starts with understanding the primary challenges we are up against. In others words, “know your enemy.”
Schedule daily check-ins
According to Harvard Business Review “enemy” # 1 is overcoming the lack of visibility.
Without the face-2-face time, some leaders become concerned that their team is not being efficient, nor productive in the right areas. Another concern is the reduced amount of communication that is often needed to move action items forward or develop plans.
So how could we meet this challenge head on? Schedule daily check-ins. This is routine, focused, and with clear expectations that help keep everyone on track. This could mean scheduling a series of one-on-one’s to review specific tasks or hosting a team meeting to check-in on broader activities. Neither have to be time consuming, and with clear guidelines set up front, they should not be. For leaders who already have these in place, this could be as simple as moving them to an on online tool.
Make Yourself and Information Readily Available.
Overcoming the lack of access to information is “enemy” #2. Not being able to get the information you need, when you need it, can be a major blocker to productivity. Often times we rely on other people, as teams are generally interconnected. In other cases, we need critical resources readily available to get things done.
Well, let’s take the challenge. For many teams a primary source for information is the leader. Leaders must find comfort in making themselves readily available and visible. This could be through live video functions on your phone or computer. Another approach to tackling this is to create a shared folder on a shared drive. Store project plans and other necessary documents in one place. Ask the team for the type of information they would like centrally stored and available. Lastly, for the leaders that want to make sharing information more collaborative, consider using tools such as Microsoft Teams or Googles G Suite.
Establish a Routine
“Enemy” #3, possibly the toughest of them all, overcoming home distractions. Balancing this new level of exposure to family demands, during hours normally spent at work, is hard. Priorities, priorities… but we can manage this challenge too.
The most effective thing I have personally used here is establishing a routine. I know, some of you may be thinking, how in the heck do I establish routine with children at home? Dogs barking? Etc. Without getting into the abundance of research, routine is good for child development, mental health, dieting, forming good habits and so forth. If you can commit yourself and your household to a routine, it can help protect your “focus time.” Another option for managing home distractions, is designate an office space. A space for you, and only you, to lock in (unless there is a real emergency of course).
Leading remotely and working from home can be a challenge but we have overcome larger hurdles in our life – stay safe!